The flash-based iPod shuffle has arrived and is available today.

In its bid to seize what remains of the flash-based music player market, Apple’s tiny iPod shuffle is available in either 512MB (120 songs - "twice as much as the average flash player on the market," according to Jobs) and 1GB (240 song) models for £69 and £99 respectively. Both players are priced at less than the typical flash based player on the market.

Explaining the strategy to the crowd gathered at the Macworld San Francisco Keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: "We'd like to go after the remaining flash market. At the moment that market is incredibly fragmented and there has been no investment in marketing or growing the market. We don't want to make another one of these. We want to make something that's greater. To bring even more people into the digital music revolution."

Apple's concept is based on the company's claim that most iPod users like to useb the shuffle feature when listening to their music.

The iPod shuffle works using the iPod’s shuffle feature. Apple describes it as, “smaller and lighter than a pack of chewing gum”. Built for commuting, it ships with its own lanyard so it’s ready to wear “right out of the box”.

The music player works seamlessly with iTunes’ innovative AutoFill feature which automatically selects songs from a user’s music library to fill it up with just one click.

Easy to use, relax, enjoy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: “With most flash-memory music players users must use tiny displays and complicated controls to find their music; with iPod shuffle you just relax and it serves up new combinations of your music every time you listen.”

The shuffle feature randomly selects songs from a user's music library or playlists, and the iTunes AutoFill feature, which automatically selects songs to fill iPod shuffle from a user’s complete music library. A switch on the back of the iPod shuffle lets users listen to their music in order rather than shuffled.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained that users wishing to listen to a new album, for example, could put those tracks at the top of the playlist when transfering to the iPod shuffle.

Apple has eschewed FireWire for the iPod shuffle, which transfers songs over USB. Like the hard drive-based iPods, it also doubles as a portable USB flash drive with up to 1GB of storage space.

Over ten million iPods sold

More than ten million iPods have been sold since it was introduced, and it is the number one selling digital music player in the world.

Apple confirmed that its iPod has created a booming accessory market. To serve the early adopters, the iPod shuffle is being introduced with several optional accessories. These include: an armband; a weather-protecting sport case; a USB dock for syncing and charging the device and an optional USB power adapter.

Users can also extend the iPod shuffle battery life (up to 12 hours) with an optional battery pack that holds two AAA batteries and keeps the music playing for up to 20 additional hours.

All these peripheral accessories cost $29 each and will be available “in the next few weeks”.

In the box, buyers get earbud headphones, a lanyard and a CD with iTunes 4.7.1 for Mac and Windows computers.

Apple’s iPod shuffle requires a Mac with a USB port and Mac OS X 10.2.8 or 10.3.4 or later; or a Windows PC with a USB port, or a USB card and Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional Service Pack 4 or later.

With additional reporting by Karen Haslam in San Francisco.
More from Macworld Expo San Francisco
Main round up page

Pre show image gallery

Keynote and show floor
Check back frequently for more news and image galleries from Macworld Expo.